Hifa & The Fringe: The verdict

Takudzwa Chihambakwe
LOADED with déjà vu moments or rather reliving the past as a number of acts participating at the festival had featured in previous editions – there was not much euphoria around the 18th edition of Hifa.

Add the unexpected rains to the equation and the little flicker of excitement that was building simply got washed away from the Harare International Festival of the Arts.

But, kudos to Manuel Bagorro, Hifa founder and artistic director, and his troops for not throwing in the towel despite tough times for the arts sector.

They did well considering the circumstances.

On the first day of the festival, May 1, there was a buzz. People came out in their numbers compared to last year’s day one.

The momentum was building up slowly ahead of the highly anticipated opening show, but all this was dampened by the rains as the opening show lacked zing and the directors tried too hard to merge too many things.

The dullish vibe created on the opening show infected the rest of the festival. Things lit up a bit on Thursday evening a superb performance by South African star, Lira, on the ZOL Main Stage.

The heavens opened up again and the rains returned sending most folks back to their homes early.

Attendance to shows improved this year compared to 2017.

Acts participating at the festival were on point across all genres, though there were some such as Australia’s Klue who left us wondering if he had actually been flown in or he was in the hood and got roped in at the last minute.

His act mundane.

Moving on to The Fringe, hosted by Theatre in the Park in the same park as Hifa’s main arena: well, that was a disaster.

The major challenge for the concept, which was launched this year and will be running concurrently with Hifa going forward, was poor marketing.

Besides social media marketing, nothing was done to let people know about it, and it was no surprise that several acts performed before paltry crowds.

Another challenge for The Fringe was the lack of crowd pulling acts. Similar to Hifa, they were repeating acts that have staged several shows at the venue such as the theatre productions, “Operation Restore Regasi” and “A 1000 Miles”. In future editions, there is need for the co-ordinator to develop a solid programme with high quality and intriguing acts, and they should ensure that performances start on time – with or without a big crowd.

It is good that Hifa and The Fringe brought the arts back into focus this past week, but it is sad that they could have given Zimbabwe and the world so much more.

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